Major General Robert “Bob” Edwin Wagner died on August 14, 2013 in Smithfield, Virginia at the age of 78. General Wagner had a distinguished 33 year career in the United States Army, including two combat tours in Vietnam. The highlights of his career were his three years as the 60th Colonel of the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment in Nuremberg, Germany; and his final assignment as the first Commanding General of Cadet Command at Fort Monroe, Virginia, where he was responsible for the pre-commissioning training of all Army officers. He also commanded a tank battalion, an armored cavalry squadron, and served as Assistant Division Commander (Maneuver) for the 1st Infantry Division. His awards and decorations include the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, the Distinguished Service Medal, the Silver Star, the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star with V device and 2 Oak Leaf Cluster, and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry (Gold and Bronze). He was also awarded the William Dupuy Award in 2006 for services rendered to Cadet Command. Second only to his family, General Wagner cared passionately about the Unites States Army until the day he died.
General Wagner graduated in 1953 from Fairfax High School, where he met his beloved wife, Charlotte White Wagner, who passed away in 2011. After he graduated from Virginia Military Institute in 1957 and married Charlotte, they began their 30-plus year adventure in the United States Army. In 1958, General Wagner successfully competed for a Regular Army commission at Fort Ord, California, and in the process fell in love with maneuver warfare, a love that never died. He was a brilliant tactician, and authored several influential articles on combined arms operations that were taught at TRADOC schools for many years, in particular The Warrior Manual for Mounted Combat. General and Mrs. Wagner were stationed in Georgia, California, Kentucky, Kansas, Colorado, Virginia and Washington state. They also spent a total of 7 years in Germany. During their time with the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment, General Wagner became known as “the Dueler” and Charlotte as “the Queen.” They were the King and Queen of the mythical Kingdom of Dragoon, a conceit developed to encourage friendly competition between the three squadrons and their “Dukes,” as they guarded the border of the free world at the height of the Cold War. General and Mrs. Wagner were known as Dueler and Queen from that time onward.
After retiring from the Army in 1990, General and Mrs. Wagner remained in the Tidewater area of Virginia. General Wagner fulfilled his lifelong dream of writing a novel, The Sampan War, based loosely on his time in Vietnam, and worked for five years at Norfolk State University as a special assistant to the President for recruitment and retention. When he finally retired for good, he remained active in the Kiwanis Club and the Old Point Comfort Yacht Club, for which he served as Commodore for several years. He served as a docent at the Mariner’s Museum, where he gave a rousing presentation on the battle between the Monitor and the Merrimac, and at the Casemate Museum at Fort Monroe. And, in one of his favorite roles, he read to school children at Barron Elementary School in Hampton as “Story Bob.” He was never happier than when one of his former “children” recognized and hailed him.
He also maintained a close connection to Cadet Command and to the Virginia Military Institute, speaking every year at the Marshall Awards. His family is grateful to the wonderful people at VMI and Cadet Command who so kindly supported and assisted him in his later years.
General Wagner is survived by his children, Caryn Anne Wagner of Arlington, Virginia and her husband, Major Carlyle Lash (USA, RETIRED); Robert Edwin Wagner, Jr. of Colleyville, Texas and his wife, Kristen Esbensen Wagner; and Kristen Wagner Rarig of Smithfield, Virginia, and her husband, Colonel Jeffrey Rarig (USA, RETIRED). He also leaves four grandchildren, Kary Wagner Nowlin and Kyli Wagner of Colleyville, Texas, and First Lieutenant Amy Ferguson, USA, and Katie Rarig of Northern Virginia. One of General Wagner’s last official acts was officiating at the commissioning ceremony of his granddaughter, Amy, at the College of William and Mary, from which all three of his children graduated and where he had commissioned his daughter, Caryn, in 1979. General Wagner is also survived by his brother, Frank Wagner, and his wife, Jean, of Arnold, Maryland. A funeral at Arlington National Ceremony is being planned before the end of the year. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the VMI Foundation Center for Leadership and Ethics (http://www.vmi.edu/Foundation/).